African-American Heritage Trail Marker Unveiled Sunday March 8

The third marker on Springfield’s African-American Heritage Trail will be unveiled Sunday, March 8, at 2 p.m.

There will be a dedication ceremony at Gibson Chapel Presbyterian Church, 536 East Tampa, and will dedicate a “church square” that includes two churches with a historically African-American congregation.

Gibson Chapel, on the corner of Tampa and Washington, is the southern area of the square. The church was founded as the First Negro Cumberland Church during the last year of the American Civil War by a freed slave named Reverend Peter Lair. The building was a frame structure on the south side of the Jordan River.

In 1891, a brick building was built on the corner of Washington and Pine, now 536 East Tampa. The church became Gibson Chapel in honor of Reverend H.A. Gibson. The church is noted for hiding families fleeing angry mobs after the lynching of three black men during Easter weekend 1906, with the white members of the church protecting them.

Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church was also built in 1865, following an arsonist burning down the log cabin church along Jordan Creek. The church was named after Pastor Edgar Pitts who lead the church three separate times. The current church was built in 1911.

The African-American Heritage Trail follows an existing greenway trail that runs close to several of the important sites on the trail. The trailer is guided by a committee of citizens focused on honoring locations that are significant to telling the story of African-Americans and their contributions to the community.

The group also researches previously undocumented history of African-Americans in the Springfield area to identify and celebrate those contributions to the community’s development.

More information on the trail is available online, and donations to the foundation that oversees development of the trail can be sent to: Community Foundation of the Ozarks Springfield-Greene County  African-American Heritage Trail Fund, P.O. Box 8960, Springfield, MO 65801, or visit CFOzarks.org.

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